Scarborough During The 1980s

The 1980s was a key time for many of Scarborough’s best loved attractions. In 1984, Scarborough Zoo and Marineland was given a makeover. The animals left and more attention was given to rides and amusements, under the new name of Marvel’s Amusement Park. In the same year the North Bay Bathing Pool received two huge slides (the longest in Europe at the time) and a new name – Waterscene.

Only a year later, Kinderland opened on Burniston Road, and two years later Waterscene became Water Splash World. Across town the South Bay Pool closed in 1988. Scarborough was changing in a bid to keep the tourists coming back.

One reader, Simon, has kindly shared some of his holiday photographs from the 1980s, many of which feature some of the attractions that Stories From Scarborough is investigating. The full set can be seen on the Stories From Scarborough Image Archive, but for now here are a few highlights.

Please do not copy or use any of these images without permission.

First of all, there are some splendid images from the final years of Scarborough Zoo.

Above you can see the performing dolphins, and below – a bear. There was once a whole host of animals at the zoo, including parrots, snakes, even farmyard animals and huge fibreglass dinosaurs!

There was also a small racing track (above), and the Astro Slide (below). The latter survived into the Marvel’s era. There was also a larger version at the Scalby Mills Complex, which was built in the 1960s and demolished to make way for the current day Sea Life Centre at the start of the 1990s.

There’s also a lovely shot of the Hispaniola on the Mere.

The company that built the Hispaniola back in the 1940s – Charles Pearson Ltd – also constructed many of the miniature boats for the Peasholm Park Naval Battles, which also feature in Simon’s collection.

And then of course there’s Kinderland – every visitor remembers the Muddlebugs (pedal cars), and how difficult to steer they were.

A huge thank you to Simon for sending these in. You can see more on the Image Archive website.

Do you have any photographs of the attractions listed on this website? Your images could really help both the archive and the research – often small details in a picture can lead to new avenues of investigation. If you’d like to donate images, please get in touch. Modern day images also welcome (e.g. photographs of the Hispaniola today, the derelict Marvel’s site, water chute etc) as too are opinions of the sites. Do you like the new developments? Or should the original attractions be restored?

After Monkey Island: The Scalby Mills Site

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Now onto Scalby Mills…

If it was possible to travel one hundred years into the past, then Scalby Mills – located just beyond the North Sands in Scarborough – would look very different indeed.


Above: Scalby Mills – undated (from the author’s collection)

It may not be immediately obvious in the above picture, but if you look to the left of the image you will notice an ascending part of a small hill which is now the flat car park of the Sea Life Centre. Known as Monkey Island, this bizarre hunk of rock was presumably once part of Scalby Beck river bank, having been separated by the process of erosion. The unusual name has invited many attempts at explanation – the most popular of which involves a monkey, brought to Scarborough by a sailor from foreign climes, that made its escape via the island (although technically it is not really a true island).

There is an excellent photograph of the landmark available here, taken in 1960, shortly before it was destroyed.

Over the years Monkey Island became the site of cricket and football matches, picnics and wartime defence (in the form of a machine gun bunker during WWII). However, when local fairground entrepreneur Albert Corrigan (his brother Jimmy acquired, amongst other things, the former Turkish Baths on Scarborough Foreshore – now Coney Island Amusements) set his heart on building an amusements site at Scalby Mills, Monkey Island became an unwelcome obstacle.


Above: Monkey Island can be seen in the distant centre of the above image (from the author’s collection)

By the 1960s, Scarborough’s North Side was teeming with attractions – the North Bay Bathing Pool had been going strong for thirty years, and Peasholm Park for even longer. Northstead Manor Gardens offered a boating lake, outdoor theatre, water chute and miniature railway, and the end of the decade would also bring Scarborough Marineland and Zoo to the vicinity. Clearly visitors were spending more and more time in what was once the more remote and uncultivated part of Scarborough, and the miniature railway already took passengers towards the Scalby Mills area.


Above: The miniature railway already travelled to Scalby Mills (from the author’s collection)

Sensing the potential for a lucrative investment, Corrigan eventually secured rights to develop Monkey Island and the land nearby into an amusements site. The destruction of the landmark would provide a large, level area on which to develop a comprehensive complex, and a new station for the miniature railway could also be built – making it the ideal way in which to travel to this exciting new attraction, which opened in 1963.


Above: Passengers travel to the brand new site (from the author’s collection)

The complex was extensive, and included a cafe, slot machines, paddling pool, fairground rides and later, an impressive Astro Slide, not unlike the one at nearby Scarborough Zoo (although it is unclear whether this Astro Slide arrived later, when the zoo became Marvel’s Amusement Park; it was also considerably smaller than the Scalby Mills equivalent).


Above: The impressive Astro Slide at Scalby Mills (from the author’s collection)

The Scalby Mills Amusements enjoyed just under thirty years of business, but eventually closed in 1990, to make way for the Sea Life Centre that still stands on the site today. Once again the area was redeveloped, as was the Scalby Mills station for the miniature railway. There is even pirate-themed miniature golf for visitors, and the aquarium – with its distinctive, pyramid-esque architecture – is an ideal destination for rainy days (or otherwise) – the Sea Life Centre is still going strong and there is no sign of its success abating.


Above: The white pyramids of the Sea Life Centre (from the author’s collection)

Albert Corrigan died in 2008, and whilst the Corrigan name is still well known in Scarborough (the family have established various attractions in the town), the same cannot be said for Monkey Island. For many of us it is difficult to imagine the shoreline as it was – old pictures show a hill that looks out of place and strange. Even more intriguing is the question of the monkey who supposedly escaped there. Where did he or she arrive from? And where did the creature go?

You can see dozens more excellent photographs of the Scalby Mills Amusement site by visiting this link.

Do you remember Monkey Island? Or Scalby Mills Amusements? What was it like? Please share your stories!


Maritime Heritage Centre: Monkey Island

Postcards of Scarborough

Showman Albert Corrigan Dies

All other information sourced from old newspaper clippings at the Scarborough Room (Scarborough Library) and the Doris and Cyril Prescott Collection.